The Portland Police Bureau has adopted a policy of deescalation when dealing with encounters with people who exhibit “characteristics” consistent with mental illness, The Oregonian reports.
According to the new policy, police “are not expected to diagnose mental or emotional conditions, but are expected to recognize behaviors that are indicative of persons affected by mental illness or in crisis, with a special emphasis on those that suggest potential violence and/or danger.”
If officers judge that the person is suffering from a mental illness or is in an acute state of crisis, instead of confronting them, they are strongly encouraged to disengage and reevaluate the situation with the assistance of a supervisor or a member of the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team (ECIT).
“Non-engagement or disengagement are tactics that can be used if the member determines that contact or continued contact with the person will result in an undue safety risk to the person, the public and/or members,” the new policy states.
“A police report will be written documenting the following: details of the call; reasons for non-engagement or disengagement; actions taken to deescalate the situation; actions taken to promote safety; follow up plans and referrals made, and whether the address is flagged” in a database containing the names of people who have previously had mental episodes.
The database will purged after 10 years if the individual has no further contact with the police.
The new policy comes on the heels of a number of incidents nationwide in which individuals who were clearly manifesting signs of mental illness were shot and killed by officers who lacked the training or guidelines required to deal with people in crisis.